'Clear signal that Govt will leave FoI untouched'

Director of the Society of Editors Bob Satchwell has urged journalists to respond to the new consultation on the proposed Freedom of Information curbs.

Satchwell is hopeful that Friday's announcement effectively means that the FoI curbs have been kicked into the long grass.

He said: "I think the Government has thought again and listened to the powerful argument from Press Gazette and from editors across the country.

"We are very glad that the Government has listened carefully to all the arguments."

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "There was an overwhelmingly hostile response from all users: campaign groups, the press, Press Gazette's own campaign and many delegations to ministers.

"Everybody saw this as an unjustified attack which would cause real damage."

Frankel added: "The clear signal is that the Government is thinking of leaving the current arrangements untouched."

Pointing out that Gordon Brown is now likely to have the final say on proposed FoI curbs, Frankel said: "Brown has just faced a storm of criticism following FoI disclosures about his decision to abolish pension tax credits. But he also has a long history of support for FoI.

"He will know that a proper Act will sometimes inconvenience ministers.

"A prime minister who supports the legislation, despite his own recent discomfort, would really show that Government is changing.

"This is the approach advocated by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, who has pointed out that authorities can already refuse ‘vexatious' requests.

"Thomas's guidance says the term is not limited to requests designed to harass an authority but it includes burdensome requests which have no serious purpose or are manifestly unreasonable."


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